Karl Forshaw was born in Sheffield, South Yorkshire. After a successful career as a contract software developer and all the travel that came with it, he settled down on the edge of the countryside with his wife, children, and dog, where he now resides. He writes from his basement to a soundtrack of obscure music, drinking too much coffee and watching his fish grow.
1.- What made you choose self-publishing?
What did the oracle say? “Know thyself?” I’ve always been a bit of a rebel. The idea of someone else telling me what I can or can’t write/publish just turns me off. I knew that if I didn’t do everything the way I wanted to do it, from the story itself to the presentation, I would lose motivation and the project probably wouldn’t have happened. People argue in both directions about the financial side of indie vs trad, but for me, it was less about the financial and more about keeping control of my work and being able to take it in whatever direction it wants to go.
2.- Which elements would you say were your inspiration to create the world of Luna Ruinam?
Oh boy, where to start...Well, originally, Luna Ruinam was a game project. I wanted to have a go at building a game engine, and it was going to be a bit of a love letter to some of my favorite games from the 90’s. A lot of that bled into the world. So I guess the original influences would be Final Fantasy 9, a little bit of Final Fantasy 7, perhaps. I had pretty much the full story for the game mapped out in my head, and will most likely novelize it for later in the series. Anyway, one day, I received this character concept, and the name Renia popped into my head, and then I’m beavering away writing backstory for her, which went from a few paragraphs, to a few pages, to a novella, to a novel.
Throughout that process, lots of other influences bled in. I think if I’m honest, China Miéville’s Perdido Street Station, and The Scar were always in the back of my mind whilst drafting Renia, because that was the overall vibe I wanted. I’ve been on a bit of a Horus Heresy marathon over the past few years though, so that will have contributed to the tone.
3.- Renia is a complex novel, with multiple POVs and time jumps. Would you say this was a problem while writing it?
Yes and no. The POV jumps I didn’t really have an issue with. There were one or two times when I couldn’t get into the head of whoever it was I was writing, but eventually those things clicked. I remember the first draft just sort of wrote itself. It was about half the length and was missing so much. I was lucky that I managed to find a really good editor who was able to point out the weaknesses in the story in such a way that I could ‘see the wood for the trees’ and then things got really difficult. I think it took me about six or seven months to rewrite for the second draft, and I added about sixty thousand words. A lot of the complexity got added there, and is a result of me thinking “is this something that I would want to read?”
4.- Could you tell us more about how you envisioned the lightstone magic system?
Without spoilers for the rest of the series? Haha, maybe. I’ll have a go.
I think the initial idea came from Final Fantasy 7 and the Materia system. You have these gems that are essentially soul essence, and grant you magical abilities. I decided to take it a bit further and think of them not as ‘tools’ that are slaved to your will but as possessing their own kind of sentience. This took me down a bit of a rabbit hole, because I didn’t want to present the lightstones as some wish-granting wonder. I wanted to create a world where all life had a predatory aspect, where everything that lives, wants. In Renia, a lot of that is communicated as you work your way through, but there’s a lot more to be revealed about the nature of the lightstones…
5.- Renia is your debut. Could you tell us more about the process behind starting to write and the path to publish it?
Sure. As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to make an RPG. I put a small team together and was doing all the programming for it, funding it all with some savings. At the time I had just spent the better part of a decade doing very logical work with no real creative outlet and I just wanted to do something different. Unfortunately when the pandemic hit things got a bit more difficult, I was finding it harder to justify the expense of funding a game project, and by that point I found I was enjoying writing the lore more than doing the programming.
The game project got put on hold but I couldn’t put the book down, so I continued to write it, and eventually had something that I thought was half-decent. I sent it out to a few editors for critique and met John Rickards, who really made me feel like I could have something worth publishing. At that point it was just months of head-scratching and chugging coffee, wearing out my keyboard, annoying my friends and family with plot ideas. Some days it felt like I would never get to the finish line, but I kept pushing until it was done. It’s funny, I expected to have this big ‘yatta’ moment at some point throughout the process, but it still hasn’t come.
With publishing, I was sure that I wanted to put out a product that looked and felt as good as it could, so I chose not to do print-on-demand and reached out to CPI, who print books for a lot of the big publishers. Working with their team was an absolute dream, I couldn’t be happier with the results.
6.- Your hardbacks are absolutely gorgeous. Could you tell us more about how you decided to make these editions?
I have Oliver Tsujino, Stone Ridge Books, and CPI to thank for that. As for the decision to do them, it’s a number of things. First and foremost, I am a reader. My bookshelves are filled with special edition books and fancy hardbacks. I just love a beautiful book; the smell, the touch of the paper, the sound it makes when you turn the page. I know it’s easy to discount the effects of those things in the face of the actual written work, but they are an important part of the reading experience for me. It didn’t feel right to spend a few years of my life working on this novel, which makes mention of the power of effort and work, without putting the effort in to present it in the best way available to me.
I think the pandemic forced everyone to think about their lives a little differently. For me it was a case of having something I could really be proud of, being able to pick up that hardback in ten or twenty years and being able to say “I made this.” Even if it doesn’t do well, or I’m eventually burning all the copies that I didn’t sell to keep warm, I’ll be able to point at the fire and say “I made that!”
7.- What does Karl Forshaw like to do in his free time?
Read! One of the great things about becoming an indie author is the community of other writers that opens up to you. I’ve made some great friends in the community and I’ve been lucky enough to read a lot of their work over the past couple of years. Recently I’ve been gushing over Rex Burke’s Orphan Planet and J.C.M Berne’s Hybrid Helix trilogy, both authors are great guys and I’ve loved chatting with them about their work and the process of publishing. I’ve had the pleasure of reading Berne’s standalone WIP as well—look out for that one, it’s brilliant.
Other than that, I keep tropical fish, enjoy music of all kinds, and annoy the hell out of my wife and kids. I’d love to tell you I have some wild and adventurous hobbies, but I’m the sort of bloke who just enjoys a walk along the coast, a tray of fish and chips, and a pint of Guinness.
8.- What can we expect from Karl Forshaw in the future?
Certainly another book, hopefully another ten. I’m about a third of the way into drafting Luna Ruinam 2, and I have the beginnings of a couple of standalone works. Both of which could end up being novellas. Luna Ruinam is about nine books in my mind, but I try not to think about it because that is a hell of a mountain to climb. As long as I’m enjoying writing it, and there are people out there that enjoy reading it, I’ll keep going.